Lives in Suspense the Realities and Hopes of Posted Workers in the

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.2.04 (Tower Two)
Jens Arnholtz, FAOS, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Astrid Stampe Knippel, FAOS, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
LIVES IN SUSPENSE THE REALITIES AND HOPES OF POSTED WORKERS IN THE DANISH CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Posting has become a highly debated topic within the European Union due to the potential

exploitation of posted workers. Especially posting in the construction sector may take the form of

an employer-organised labour mobility. In the context of EU-enlargements from 2004 onwards,

posting has enabled employers to take advantage of the increasing socioeconomic differences

within the EU by circumventing labour market regulation of the host country (Lillie 2010, Cremers

2011). Posting may therefore appear as the perfect way for employers to exploit the increased

inequalities within the EU. At the same time however, posting involves a marked dilemma for the

workers. Whilst trade unions and native workers in the old member state host countries talk of

social dumping and exploitation (Wagner 2014), workers from the newer member states may find

posting economically attractive. As such, posting may pit workers against workers in a spiral of

downwards wage-competition

However, this article argues that posting may also represents a mixed blessing from the perspectives

of posted workers. On the one hand they may wish to improve their economic situation through

posting, but on the other hand they also have hopes for and dreams of a stable life at home. Drawing

on a survey with 200 posted construction workers in Denmark and in-depth interviews, the article

suggests that posting has become a new life mode for many lower-skilled construction workers.

Posting for shorter or longer periods of time has in this way become an integrated part of their lives

1 Both from FAOS, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. Correspondence: jh@faos.dk.

- an almost permanent temporariness which employers can exploit. At the same time, the data

shows that the posted construction workers have future plans and hopes for a ‘normal’ life in their

home country. In that sense, the express a kind of social suffering linked to their current situation,

indicating that their satisfaction with the situation – however economically favorable – may not be

that great. As such, the article questions the description of posted workers as hyper-flexible

(Meardi et al 2012) - and thus hyper-exploitable.